The Police have observed a re-emergence of China Officials Impersonation Scams where parents of foreign students who received phone calls claiming that their child has been kidnapped.

The modus operandi of such scams are as follows:

Step 1: Victims, typically Chinese national students, received unsolicited calls from strangers informing that they are government officials. These calls usually employ caller-ID spoofing technology and may look like they are from official government hotline numbers such as “110” or “999”.

Step 2: Victims were then informed that they had committed criminal offences and were required to assist in criminal investigations by doing any of the following, in order to prove that the money they owned was legitimate.

• Victims were asked to withdraw their money and pass it to strangers or transfer the money via cryptocurrency cash deposit machine or to another bank account.

• Victims were instructed to update their whereabouts to the scammers over the next few days. Thereafter, the syndicate would inform the victims to change their SIM cards and log out from their social media messenger.

• Victims also gave their personal information on their families in China to scammers who made use of such information to cheat their parents.

Step 3: Scammers contacted victims’ parents who are based overseas, to inform that their children were kidnapped and demand payment of ransoms.

On 7 March 2020, the Police received a report where parents of a Chinese national student reported on the kidnap of their child in Singapore. In this case, the female Chinese national studying in Singapore received an unsolicited call on 6 March 2020 from a scammer who claimed to be a Chinese government official. The scammer alleged that the victim is involved in a serious offence and requested for her to assist in their criminal investigation. Acting on the scammer’s instructions, the victim withdrew S$13,000 from her bank card and purchased bitcoins for the scammers. Subsequently, the scammer told the victim that kidnap scams were rife in China and a video educating the public against kidnap scams will be useful. The scammer directed the victim to make a video of herself being a kidnap victim, under the pretext of ‘educational purposes’ and she was instructed to provide her personal information, including details of her family in China, to them. The victim was further instructed not to contact anyone in the days that followed. Following which, the scammer sent the video to the victim’s parents to claim that their daughter had been kidnapped by them in Singapore and further demanded for ransom. Even though there was no monetary loss suffered by the victim’s parents, the scammers have managed to instil fear and helplessness into them.

Police take a serious view against any person who may be involved in scams, whether knowingly or unwittingly. Anyone found to be involved in such scams will be subjected to Police investigations. Under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, any person who is guilty of knowingly assisted in dealing with the monies derived from criminal conduct shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to both. Under the Miscellaneous Offences Act, any person who is guilty of communicating false message will be liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both.

Police would also like to advise members of the public to take the following precautions when they receive unsolicited calls, especially from unknown parties:

• Ignore such calls and the caller’s instructions. No government agency will instruct payment through a telephone call or other social messaging platforms (WeChat or Facebook); or ask you for personal banking information such as your internet banking passwords.

• For foreigners receiving calls from persons claiming to be from Police in your home country, call your Embassy/High Commission to verify the claims of the caller.

• Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on the website or to callers over the phone. Personal information and bank details such as internet bank account usernames and passwords, OTP codes from tokens, are useful to criminals. Do not make any funds transfer.

• Do not create videos sending false alarms of distress.

• Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. You may be overwhelmed by emotion and err in your judgment.

If you have any information related to such crime, please call the Police hotline at 1800-255 0000, or dial ‘999’ for urgent Police assistance.

To seek scam-related advice, members of the public may call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg. Please share this advisory with your family and friends to prevent them from being the next scam victim.

Source: Singapore Police Force